Reviewing the European North/South Divide under the Prism of Beck’s ‘Risk society’ Thesis

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Abstract

Reviewing the European North/South Divide under the Prism of Beck’s ‘Risk society’ Thesis
Southern European political cultures have been viewed as extremely disadvantageous terrains for the development of a civic culture compatible to the requirements of a modern polity. Trust confined to the local and the familial, weak civil societies, violation of the law in the absence of supervision are some of the elements combined to draw an extremely negative picture of southern European political cultures in the relevant literature. These are very well entrenched perceptions that dominate all studies dealing with social aspects the southern European nations. Recent works produced by students of environmental mobilisations have argued that the environmental problematique has operated as a catalyst that, at least, forces us to re-examine the aforementioned perspectives if not to outright dismiss them.

This paper argues that although these challenging perspectives are not immune from criticisms, they have put forward a strong case that deserves further attention. A careful reading of Beck’s ‘risk society’ thesis suggests that mistrust to expert authorities and defensive reactions by social actors against them are not confined to specific national contexts but are now characteristics of countries previously held to be exemplary cases of civicness. Following that observation the paper proceeds by posing a number of related questions:

1) Can we argue that we are witnessing a general ‘Mediterranisation’ of European political culture or by arguing that we essentially accept what was idealistic evaluations of post-war European cultures determined by specific political conceptions?

2) Is there still any role for the use of a north/south divide in the cross-national study of social processes and to what extent?



Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
Publication statusIn preparation - 11 Jul 2005

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